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Community helps West Valley elementary school recoup after burglary

Jul 27, 2023, 3:56 PM

Esperanza Elementary School students...

Students of Esperanza Elementary School pose for a photo at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City. The recently burglarized school is now well on its way to recouping $12,000 in losses thanks to an outpouring of support from the community. (Courtesy Eulogio Alejandre)

(Courtesy Eulogio Alejandre)

WEST VALLEY CITY — A recently burglarized West Valley elementary school is well on its way to recouping $12,000 in losses thanks to an outpouring of support from the community.

Surveillance cameras captured video of a handful of what appears to be teenagers breaking into Esperanza Elementary School, 4956 W. 3500 South in West Valley City, earlier this month. The individuals shattered a glass window and took a computer, signed sports jerseys and a number of musical instruments and equipment.

The dual immersion school, with a student population of 99% Latino, is a haven for Hispanic culture and arts. It’s home to the state’s only children’s mariachi band, and about 40% of the students play a musical instrument.

Eulogio Alejandre, Esperanza’s principal, said he initially hesitated to publicize the incident. He changed his mind when students, teachers, and other community members pushed for the school to go public.

“We never anticipated any of that. I honestly can tell you my personal interest in this whole thing is to help these kids — because they appear to be kids. I have video of the incident. They look like they are kids. I hope that they get the help they need to get on the right track,” the principal said. “We never anticipated getting people to donate money, to donate instruments.”

But that’s exactly what’s happened. So far, the school has received $300 in donations as well as what Alejandre said were numerous offers to donate instruments.

West Valley police detective Ardeni Prutina has been part of those efforts. Prutina said he always reads and rereads police reports while investigating a case, but this one stuck out.

Police continue search for West Valley City school burglars

“Every time I read it, I get a little bit more mad. I mean a burglary sucks, but to burglarize a school where little kids go to try to learn mariachi struck a different nerve with me,” he said. “I’m taking this one pretty personal. Music was a big part of my life growing up. So here as a detective, I’m going to work it ’til the wheels fall off.”

While waiting on other parts of the investigation, Prutina began cold-calling sports teams and musical instrument dealers to try to get donations to replace some of the stolen items. So far, the Utah Jazz, Salt Lake City Stars, and Salt Lake Bees have all donated jerseys — and Alejandre said the Mexican Consulate of Salt Lake is coordinating a donated jersey from a team in Mexico City.

Prutina said he can’t go into details since the investigation is ongoing, but the case has quite a few leads. He encouraged members of the public to get the word out about the case and to call the West Valley police nonemergency line at 801-840-4000 with any tips.

Alejandre, meanwhile, is hopeful the school will be well-prepared when students return on Aug. 14.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the community has stepped up and helped us with things that would have made it take a little longer if we didn’t have the community’s help. But we will be better than we anticipated, that there’s no doubt in my mind,” he said.

“Thank everybody for supporting the school. We’re just hopeful and grateful for all the support we’ve gotten,” he added.

More information about Esperanza Elementary, including a donation option, is available on the school’s website.

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Community helps West Valley elementary school recoup after burglary